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Home  > Farm Energy Alternatives  > Conserving Fuel and Electricity

Conserving Fuel and Electricity

Looking for energy-related equipment, funding, or a local business with the right expertise?
Try ATTRA's Directory of Energy Alternatives.

Satellite image of the U.S. by night, courtesy of NOAAWith today's slim profit margins and the uncertainty of fuel supplies and prices, it makes sense to make every energy dollar go as far as possible. Suppliers and processors are passing on increased energy costs as markups and surcharges for almost everything farmers and ranchers purchase. While U.S. farms have almost doubled their average energy efficiency over the past 25 years, high energy costs are putting many producers gravely at risk.

Some farms and ranches are able to capture big energy savings by simply maintaining their equipment better or installing new high- efficiency motors, fans, or lighting. Other producers find that more drastic changes are required: for example, reducing or eliminating tillage, converting to grass-based livestock operations, or switching to drip irrigation.

NOTE: Some of the following documents are available as Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Download Acrobat Reader.

ATTRA Publications

Comparing Energy Use in Conventional and Organic Cropping Systems - IP339


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Conserving Fuel on the Farm - IP310


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Dairy Farm Energy Efficiency - IP355


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Draft Animal Power for Farming - IP335


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Efficient Agricultural Buildings: An Overview - IP220


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Energy Saving Tips for Irrigators - IP278


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Energy-Efficient Lighting for the Farm - IP369

PDF Price: $0.99 for non-members
Kindle Price: $0.99

 • Summary • Buy PDF  • Buy Kindle • Buy Print Copy
High Tunnel Winter Growing Using Heat Recovery Ventilation - IP523


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Maintaining Irrigation Pumps, Motors, and Engines - IP299


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Measuring and Conserving Irrigation Water - IP280


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Micro-Hydro Power: A Beginners Guide to Design and Installation - IP383

PDF Price: $1.99 for non-members
Kindle Price: $1.99

 • Summary • Buy PDF  • Buy Kindle • Buy Print Copy
Micro-Hydro Power: Is It Right for My Farm? - IP384

PDF Price: $.99 for non-members
Kindle Price: $0.99

 • Summary • Buy PDF  • Buy Kindle • Buy Print Copy


See It On The Farm

Hydro Power for Gravity Flow Irrigation Systems


Coping with High Energy Prices on the Farm
A web site from the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University, offering an excellent collection of fact sheets and "how to" information.
Energy and home Sustainability
Put together by the Center for Ecological Technology, this page provides information on household technologies that can reduce electric bills and increase energy efficiency.
Energy Efficiency in Agriculture
From the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy: Increasing efficiency in the agricultural sector can improve the financial situation of small farms, have a significant effect on easing the burden on the grid, and decrease pollution and dependence on foreign oil.
Downloadable papers that cover many farm energy related issues such as how to select the right type of livestock ventilation fan, crop drying and irrigation energy savings.
Estimating Farm Fuel Requirements
A three-page PDF by the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension that compares the average fuel requirements for varying farming tasks using gasoline, diesel or LP gas.
Farm Energy Audits: Availability, Usefulness, and Cost
Based on interviews with dozens of audit providers, agencies, utilities, farming and energy organizations, as well as hundreds of agricultural producers from around the U.S., this 2009 NCAT report offers recommendations for improving energy efficiency efforts in rural areas.
Farm Energy Efficiency
A page with multiple resources for energy efficiency in agriculture.
Farmstead Energy Audit
This North Dakota State University Extension publication gives energy-saving tips for tractor and field operations, grain drying, indoor and outdoor lighting, irrigation, livestock watering, livestock buildings, farm shops, and the home.
Focus on Energy: Agriculture and Rural Business
Includes a variety of fact sheets related to agricultural energy efficiency such as CFL lighting on farms, ventilation fans for animal housing and cost-effective grain drying strategies.
Greenhouse Energy Cost Reduction Strategies
A web site from the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University that provides summary information on production strategies and technologies that greenhouse growers can use to consume less energy and improve production efficiency.
Peak Performance of Tractors and Other Diesel Engines
Achieving (and maintaining) peak performance with farm equipment will result in many benefits, such as high fuel efficiency, reduced maintenance expenses, reduced downtime, and extended life. Courtesy of Penn State Cooperative Extension.
Reduce Energy Costs in Agriculture
A two-page PDF by the Mississippi State University Extension that includes potential cost-cutting suggestions farmers should consider to reduce the impact of energy costs in the home, in farm buildings, and in the field.
Save Big on the Farm by Conserving Fuel
A two-page PDF compiled by Washington State University Extension that includes tips for reducing fuel consumption and adopting alternative fuels.
Selecting Energy-Efficient Tractors
This page discusses how the Nebraska Tractor Tests, conducted at the University of Nebraska, can be used to compare tractors on the basis of energy and power performance.


Farm Energy Calculators

Best Management Calculators
The following websites offer online tools that can be used to make high-level efficiency, cost savings, and GHG emissions reduction calculations. While these calculators do not offer the level of detail recommended for project implementation, they will give a general sense of the size of opportunity linked to a best management practice for your operations.
Farm Energy Calculators: Evaluations and Recommendations
This 2009 NCAT report evaluates over 30 farm energy decision-making tools, including comments from farmer-reviewers, and includes a dozen recommendations for making these tools more useful.
Fertilizer Calculator, Oregon Tilth and Oregon State University
Synthetic fertilizer is the largest indirect energy cost on most farms. This updated, organic fertilizer calculator will help you choose soil amendments based on cost effectiveness and soil and crop requirements. There are commercial and small farm Microsoft Excel calculators and instructions. Note that there are several worksheets within the calculator.
Martindale's Calculators Online Center: Agriculture
A large collection of on-line calculators and design tools, including many with relevance to farm energy usage.
USDA-NRCS Energy Estimator: Animal Housing
This tool is designed to enable you to estimate potential energy savings associated with swine, poultry or dairy cow housing operations on your farm or ranch. The tool evaluates major energy costs in lighting, ventilation and heating costs for swine and poultry, as well as major energy costs for lighting, air circulation, milk cooling, water heating and milk harvesting for a typical dairy.
USDA-NRCS Energy Estimator: Irrigation
This tool enables you to estimate energy cost of pumping water in the irrigation operations on your farm or ranch. NRCS technical specialists developed this model to integrate general technical information on farm-specific crops, energy prices, and pumping requirements.
USDA-NRCS Energy Estimator: Nitrogen
This Natural Resources Conservation Service energy consumption tool enables you to calculate the cost of nitrogen product use on your farm or ranch by evaluating options based on user input.
USDA-NRCS Energy Estimator: Tillage
The tool developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service estimates diesel fuel use and costs in the production of key crops in your area and compares potential energy savings between conventional tillage and alternative tillage systems.
USDA-NRCS Energy Self Assessment Tools
A wide variety of tools to help farmers and ranchers conserve energy and explore renewable energy options. The energy conservation tools include dairy, grain drying, irrigation, potato storage, greenhouses, lighting, livestock, water fountains and ventilation. Renewable energy tools are provided for solar water heating, solar electric (photovoltaic), wind turbines, biomass, and biogas.


Dairy Energy Efficiency

Center for Ecological Technology
Organization provides publications and links on energy efficient and renewable energy technologies.
DLtech, Inc. Dairy Farm Energy
Information about dairy mechanical systems, their functions and efficiencies.
EnSave, Inc.
This commercial site offers technical papers on variable speed drives for dairies, efficient fans and lighting, and other topics.
Illini Dairy Net
This "online resource for the dairy industry" offers a number of energy-related papers, under the heading "Economics, Management, & Marketing."
Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
An industry-wide consortium promoting sustainable business practices in the dairy industry. The web site contains information and case studies on energy savings opportunities for dairy farms.
Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence
Organization dedicated to improving the profitability of the dairy industry. Website provides resources and tools for improving profitability through energy efficiency.
Rural Electricity Resource Council
National clearinghouse and technical support provider on energy efficiency with an emphasis on rural applications.
The California Energy Commission
Energy in Agriculture Program offers related case studies, publications, and research projects.
The Dairy Practices Council
Non-profit organization that publishes approved educational guidelines for the dairy industry.
The Energy Center of Wisconsin
Publications on numerous dairy energy efficiency topics (search the term 'dairy').
The Midwest Rural Energy Council
Informational pages include several articles on dairy energy management.
The Wisconsin Public Service Corporation
Offers energy-saving tools and ideas for farms, including many for dairies.
U.S. Dairy Sustainability website
Information, tools, and best practices offered with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for fluid milk by 25 percent by 2020.
USDA-NRCS Energy Estimator: Animal Housing
This tool is designed to enable you to estimate potential energy savings associated with swine, poultry or dairy cow housing operations on your farm or ranch. The tool evaluates major energy costs in lighting, ventilation and heating costs for swine and poultry, as well as major energy costs for lighting, air circulation, milk cooling, water heating and milk harvesting for a typical dairy.
Utilization of Renewable Energy Sources and Energy-Saving Technologies by Small-Scale Milk Plants and Collection Centres
Riva, G. 1992. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 93. This document gives the theoretical background to the use of renewable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies used in the collection, storage and processing of milk.
Wisconsin Focus on Energy
Info Library includes fact sheets, news updates, case studies, and articles on milking parlor design, lighting, ventilation, milk-cooling, water-heating, and other dairy topics.


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This page was last updated on: July 25, 2017